How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis (and Why It’s Essential for your Marketing Plan)
What Is a Competitive Analysis?
Let’s start from the very beginning. You may not be completely sure what a competitive analysis is (or, at the very least, what we mean by competitive analysis in this scenario). At Keystone Resources, we define a competitive analysis as the process of analyzing your business’s competitors to determine what makes your product or service unique (and better in some way) than what the competition has to offer. We recently completed one for our client, Texas A&M Qatar, so we will walk you through this example to give you a better idea of what happens during this process and how you can conduct one of your own. While this example is a university, it is completely possible to use the same process to analyze any kind of business, since you will be setting the categories for your unique business and industry.
Why (and When) Should You Do a Competitive Analysis?
Performing a competitive analysis sets you in the right direction to develop an effective marketing plan based on the current perception and positioning of your business. You should perform a competitive analysis at the beginning of your project to solidify your goals for your business and to put together the best possible strategy to achieve these goals. It is a great way to identify how your competitors are reaching your market and what unique niche your business might be able to fill. Once you know what your unique attributes are, you can put together a way to spin them to your advantage, differentiating your business in the eyes of your target market.
How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis
In the case of Texas A&M Qatar, our overall project is a redesign of their website. Primary goals for the project were identified as increasing brand awareness, differentiation from other universities in Qatar, and encouraging people to enroll and attend the university. In order to achieve these goals through their website, we used a competitive analysis to first understand the options that potential students had in their search for a college.
It is a good idea to create a table with the information you want to compare. As you review each competitor on the criteria you set, add your notes in the appropriate column to be reviewed and analyzed later. As you take note of your competitors’ brand messages, website layouts, and how their information is presented, add these notes into columns.
We put together a free Competitive Analysis template for you to try out. If you want to try it out, enter your email in the form below to download the template:
In the case of Texas A&M Qatar, we had the following main categories:
- Undergraduate Degrees Offered
- Grad Degrees Offered
- Social Channels
- Top Messages
- Secondary Messages
- General Feel
- Other Thoughts
These categories represent the information we wanted to compare between universities, and the “Other Thoughts” category allows for notes about some of the specifics that are uncovered during this process.
During this process, it is crucial to identify the biggest sales message of each of the competitors. Ask yourself why they chose to use that message and whether or not it is effective and strong? In order to differentiate your business, you first need to know what your competitors are saying and how they are using those messages to reach your audience.
Think about your business as well – what products and services do you offer? Which ones are unique to your business? What things do you do differently from your competitors? Make sure that your key messages are actually represented in your marketing materials, not just what you think they are.
In our case, we also take a deeper dive into the websites of each of Texas A&M Qatar’s competitors, noting their design as well as the layout and interface. Do they use bright colors with bold typography styles? What types of imagery do they have? Do the photos feature diverse students or shots around the campus? This part of the analysis is highly qualitative, capturing the look, feel, and style of the websites in your notes on the Competitive Analysis template. We recommend doing this for the aspects of your business you are trying to focus on, whether than be websites, signage, printed marketing collateral, and social media.
How Do You Make Sense of Your Competitive Analysis Results?
Once you have gathered all of the information about your business and its competitors and captured it all on your Competitive Analysis worksheet, you may feel a sense of completion. However, your work is not done until you analyze the collected information to make sense of what it means for your business, and create a marketing plan to move forward. This information should give you an idea of how your business fits into the competitive landscape, what sales messages will be most effective, and how you can stand out against your competition. For example, if you realize all of your competitors are pushing the low prices of their products, but you have slightly more expensive versions of that product, perhaps your competitive analysis would lead you to promote the higher quality and longevity of your products. If you are analyzing a university and realize that you offer the highest number of specialized engineering degrees among your competitors, you might create a sales message describing your school as an engineering powerhouse and feature photos and case studies of engineering students who have graduated and achieved great success in their careers.
In order to fully make sense of all aspects of your competitive analysis, it may be helpful to hire marketing professionals who know what to look for and can offer recommendations about your website design, key messages, and other aspects of the marketing plan. At Keystone Resources, we have a dedicated team of marketing, design, digital, and proposal professionals available to help you should you need it. Our marketing team can help you perform and make sense of your competitive analysis, while our design and digital teams can translate those messages and objectives into beautiful marketing collateral and effective websites and digital marketing. If you are interested in pursuing an RFP, our proposal team can take your strengths and design you a beautiful proposal filled with your differentiators, past work, and branding to win you the work you want.
Ready to better position your business? Give us a call at 713.874.0162 or email us to learn more and begin the conversation.